I Love YouWell, not you – I hardly know you!  Unless… Mom? Is that you? If that’s you, then, yes, I love you.

I’m not sure who all is out there reading this, so it’s hard to say whether I love you or not. I might. You never know. If you’re not sure, buy me gifts because that could totally seal the deal. I love gifts.

But this blog post isn’t about who I love and who I don’t love. Not specifically. It’s about those three little words in general.

Thanks to Hallmark or prime-time TV or the liberal media or something, we now believe we have to say those words all the time because our loved ones could drop dead without any notice whatsoever and what if the last thing we said to them was “You put the toilet paper on the roller wrong.”  How tragic would that be?

We seem to have over-corrected, though, because now it’s become so common as to be mundane.  It’s tossed out as an addendum to things like goodbye and goodnight. It’s expected at the end of a phone call or when someone leaves the house or the room.

Pass the salt. I love you.

I wonder if we’ve done a disservice to those words, if they have lost their emotional oomph from over-use.

Listen, I’m not opposed to saying I love you. I’m not. I know you’re picturing me as some ice-queen of a woman who has her emotions all locked up inside. While that may be true, that’s not what this is about.

I love you should never be an expectation. A rote declaration. A habit.  I love you should be most often be said without any words at all. Said through your actions, how you show up for the person. And occasionally, when it wells up inside you and cannot be suppressed, through words.

That’s my belief.

My brother told me he loved me once.  It was many years ago. He hasn’t told me since, but I know he does. The night he told me, we were dancing at his wedding reception. We had just done a rousting family performance of Don McLean’s American Pie and hearts were full of joy and he and I danced and he told me. I treasure that memory because I know that, in the moment, he told me because he felt he had to.  Sure, 50% because he was super drunk but the other 50% was because it was an insuppressable declaration of what he felt in the moment.

I wonder if he were to say it at every goodbye, at every event, out of habit, if that time would stand out as special like it does.

Here’s the deal, people – if I show up for you, if I come when you call, if I make you meals, if I forgive the harsh words you didn’t mean and even the ones you did, if I put a lot of thought into the gifts I give you, if I say yes when you ask for a favor even before I know what it is, if I give you my time – then I love you. Those are the ways I tell you. Every day, those are the ways I tell you. And I know those are the ways you tell me, too, and it’s all good.  We’re good.

If, occasionally, you’re drunk (or not) and it bubbles up, well, hell – tell me. I’ll do the same and when I do, you’ll know that I said the words because I felt them, not because you expected them or I habitually spit them out on a predetermined schedule.

And if you drop dead tomorrow and the last thing I said to you was “Get your shit off my kitchen counter.”, then yeah, I’ll probably hate myself a little bit that I didn’t end every conversation with I love you, but I expect that someone who loves me will sit me down and remind me all the ways I showed you I loved you even if I didn’t say it enough, and that matters. It matters.

Now, get off my damn lawn. Oh, and here… I made you a bologna sandwich.